Among the 536 beers and 586 total beverages offered by more than 85 breweries present at the 23rd Mondial de la biere in Montreal, none stood more than those of Brasserie Dunham (Dunham Brewery), a microbrewery specializing in farmhouse style and wild ales located about an hour southeast of Montreal.
The brewery first caught our eye (along with our nostrils and tastebuds) at Les Terrasses Flaveurs, a beer and caprices tasting organized by Quebec-based beer and gastronomy expert, author and speaker, Philippe Wouters. The pairing experience was organized in stations, the second of which paired caprices from Au Petit Extra with two of Brasserie Dunham’s expert creations:
First Pairing: Spring roll with mango, ginger and tempeh, paired with Brasserie Dunham Saison Fleurs Sauvages.
This spring roll was the best either of us have ever had in our lives—no, seriously. Nothing like the greasy, crispy cylinder stuffed with cabbage and carrot that we’re used to. Refined yet approachable, this roll was fresh, delicate and grease-free, prepared more like a maki with miniature rice noodles in place of the rice and a moist, translucent rice paper skin in place of the seaweed. The best part was the fresh ginger, first enveloped within the spring roll’s fragrant folds, then bursting to life on the tongue with that quintessential ginger zing. (We weren’t the only ones talking about this roll all weekend.)
Saison Fleurs Sauvages, or saison with wild flowers (6% ABV), was a perfect pairing, equally fragrant and refined at its delicate core, with its own set of unique nuances. According to Dunham co-owner, Simon Gaudreault (who is also an accomplished wine sommelier and writer), the saison includes three types of wild flowers: raspberry (little white flowers that grow with the berry); elderflower (also little and white, often used in herbal remedies and recently, in craft beers); and berce flowers, for which he nor I could find an English translation.
Second Pairing: Dark malt bread with smoked salmon “nuggets,” paired with Brasserie Dunham Assemblage #1.
The caprice here was essentially a small piece of rye bread toast with a shmear of butter, lox-like smoked salmon pieces, and topping of dill-weed. Like fancy lox on a bagel with a hearty crunch, the fat of the butter and salt of the salmon were cut exquisitely by the funky, dry and bitter formulation of Assemblage 1.
Assemblage 1 is a blend of American Pale Ale and saison with honey (or more accurately, propolis) aged in Zinfandel barrels with brettanomyces yeast. Read that again. It’s delicious! Funky, rustic, fruity, hoppy…it’s all there, and it’s truly special. According to the brewery, Assemblage 1 is the first “assembly” or blend in which the effect of the barrels transcends the two base beers. Voila.
Fun fact: Dunham brewery is located in Dunham, Quebec, not far from the U.S. border. As such, the brewery has done a few collaborations with American brewers—Hill Farmstead and Cambridge Brewing Co. among them. Trust me, you’ll want to keep your eye out for these guys.
They never stop experimenting, either: in fact, on May 22, 2016, Dunham released no fewer than 22 beers for an event Gaudreault described as a bottle release that was enhanced for its attendees with games, giveaways and other merriments meant to make waiting in line less miserable. Plus, the releases were all pre-order, so no one walked away empty handed.
I’ll close with this video created for the brewery last June : “Brasserie ze film” by Alex Chabot. (Disclaimer: it’s in French.)